A cancer-stricken woman who was declared brain-dead three months ago gave birth yesterday to a baby girl at an Arlington hospital.
Susan Torres of Arlington was about 15 weeks pregnant when she was felled by a brain tumor in May, but she was hooked up to a ventilator and other machines in the slim hope that her baby might survive.
She had hoped for a girl, and at 8:18 a.m. yesterday Susan Anne Catherine Torres was delivered by Caesarean section at Virginia Hospital Center. The newborn weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces and was 13.5 inches long. There were no complications during delivery, and the baby appears healthy, said her uncle, Justin Torres. The hospital confirmed the birth and said the baby is being monitored in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Meanwhile, Susan Torres's husband, Jason, who has slept by his wife's side for three months, who has decorated her room with pictures, held her hand and talked to her, faced the moment he knew would come.
Sometime -- perhaps today or tomorrow, if it hasn't happened already -- his wife's body, full of cancer, will be unhooked from the web of machinery that has kept it going for the past 13 weeks and allowed to die, an end that Jason Torres, other relatives and a team of doctors all agreed was inevitable.
Even as the baby continued to grow during the past several months, Susan Torres's cancer -- melanoma -- grew as well, spreading to her lymph nodes, lungs, liver and other vital organs, relatives said.
As recently as last week, there was no evidence that the cancer had reached the placenta, but there were a multitude of other complications that could have forced the delivery, including infection. It was a bona fide race between life and death, one that family members decided to broadcast around the world in the hope of raising money to help with mounting medical bills.
Doctors and family members did not specify why the decision was made to deliver, but that her 26-year-old body had held out this long was beyond what anyone had hoped for in the beginning.
Susan Torres found out she was pregnant in February, and she and Jason, who have a 2-year-old son, Peter, were overjoyed.
Although she had a malformed freckle removed from her arm when she was a teenager, doctors had given her a clean bill of health.
In April, she began complaining of headaches and nausea, symptoms that doctors chalked up to her pregnancy. Then, on May 7, propped up in bed eating dinner, Susan Torres lost consciousness.
At the hospital, doctors told Jason Torres that his wife was brain-dead with no hope of recovery but that there was a slim chance they could keep her body going with machines for the sake of the fetus, which was about 15 weeks old at the time.
Jason Torres was certain that his wife, who had refused tests to detect birth defects, would have wanted to try. Susan Torres's parents agreed. And so, they began their vigil.
Jason Torres quit his job and began sleeping at his wife's side as a team of doctors monitored her temperature, blood pressure and the delicate chemistry of her body. Jason talked to her, and he talked to the baby, Justin Torres said. Susan's parents visited her, hugged her and kissed her. Her mother gave her French tip manicures.
And Susan Torres's belly kept growing.
Sonograms -- at first once a week or so and finally once a day -- showed the baby was healthy, even feisty, and where she was developmentally.
Last month, the crucial 24th week -- the earliest doctors believe a fetus can survive outside the womb -- came and went. A room next to Susan's was cleared out and readied for an emergency delivery. Doctors became increasingly concerned about infection and began limiting physical contact and family visits.
Jason Torres, whose insurance will cover only part of the medical costs, decided to go public with the story to avert bankruptcy -- which it appears he has done, his brother said.
He has talked to newspapers in Australia and Canada and sat under the hot lights of "Larry King Live." The bill has already exceeded $1 million. More than $400,000 has been raised, from bake sales and basketball tournaments and happy hour benefits.
As the story of Susan Torres spread, hopeful checks came from Ireland and England, from an Alabama convent, from a soldier in Baghdad. Someone from Japan sent a box of cash, betting for a medical miracle, which, in a way, yesterday was.
There have been only 12 documented cases like it since the 1970s. Now there are 13.
Staff writer Leef Smith contributed to this report.
Susan and Jason Torres on their wedding day. He was sure that she would want to try to save the baby.